The first organizational meeting for the as-yet-unnamed NYCFC supporters' group was held this past Saturday, in the lower level of the Football Factory at Legends Bar. The basement, for those who've never seen a game there, can be curtained off into thirds by large supporter flags. We had the northernmost third, plenty of room for our group.
My co-organizer Anthony, who tweets under the name NYCFC_SC, was stranded by Amtrak at school in Albany, so I chaired the meeting.
Welcoming all who had come out to learn more and show support, I began the meeting by introducing myself and explaining that we had preferred an informal start to the group. I circulated a sign-up sheet to begin building a mailing list. I then asked the assembled supporters about the clubs they follow. We as a group follow mainly English football, but there was no clear consensus beyond that. We had Spurs fans and Arsenal fans, Liverpool and Newcastle supporters. We also had a handful of Manchester United fans, but tellingly only one Manchester City fan.
That led me to my next point, a concern that the club be seen as only for Man City supporters. NYCFC is our local side, and should be able to be followed by all New Yorkers regardless of whatever other affiliations we have.
I also explained that NYCFC had been invited to send a representative but declined. My impression, from conversations with them, is that they want us to develop the supporters’ group on our own, with only moral support coming from the club itself. This is, to my way of thinking, crucial to our future. We are not interested in becoming an "official fan club" but rather an independent voice for supporters.
I also laid out a brief agenda for the next several months:
That gave me an occasion to lay out some of my personal hopes for both the supporters’ group and NYCFC itself. It is my hope that the club makes a bold statement of independence from Manchester City with their branding. Personally, I don't mind any use of sky blue, provided they continue to pair it with Yankee navy. One color from each of the parent clubs to create something new and unique on the New York sports scene. The crest, however, has to be more than just a modified version of Man City's shield-over-eagle. The general consensus of the group Similarly, we as a supporters group should choose an identity that speaks to our connection to the club and the city without restoring to "New York City FC Supporters". Speaking only for myself, I would rather see an independent name, more "Sons of Ben" than "Timbers Army". I'm also looking for something inclusive, so no "Boys" or "Minuit's Men" or the like.
- We have already begun the process of incorporating and applying for 501(c)3 status, meaning future meetings would be more formal, with minutes and an agenda. Not only will this be legally required, but I think it is necessary for our organization.
- As the group comes together, we will develop a website and members-only message board to facilitate communication between ourselves. It is crucial that lines of communication are open so that all voices may be heard.
- There is a great deal of interest in our eventual stadium atmosphere; songs, chants, tifo and the like. We expect this to grow organically over time, beginning out of these casual conversations.
- We will create a strong brand that speaks to the culture of our city. NYCFC's crest and colors are expected to be unveiled via fan vote next month, and once that is in place we can start to be begin the process of branding our group with a name and logo of our own.
I then discussed what I saw as the opportunities and challenges facing NYCFC and us as a supporters’ group. The challenges are many:
On the other hand, there is tremendous potential.
- The first MLS club in New York City proper will draw a great deal of attention, and even small mistakes will be magnified in that bright spotlight. In addition, immediate success will be expected and taken for granted.
- If, as expected, NYCFC plays its first several seasons in Yankee Stadium, the park’s structure will make creating an imposing atmosphere extremely difficult. (This provoked a spirited discussion amongst those in attendance.)
- NYCFC will have to win over fans of other clubs. The league has failed to establish any significant presence in New York City since its first games in 1996, and that coupled with the rise of international broadcasts has meant our native soccer fans have gravitated to the world’s greatest clubs. We need to encourage fans of foreign clubs from Boca Juniors to Arsenal to Juventus to support their local side. This is, in part, why it’s so important that the club’s independence be stressed.
In that vein, as we move forward, there will be many opportunities for fans to get involved with our supporters’ group. That involvement could be as casual as meeting up to watch road games or as extensive as becoming an officer and shaping organizational policy. I am expecting our members to step forward and volunteer their talents, which will be made much easier once we have a message board.
- New York City is fertile ground for the sport. Soccer is enjoying record popularity among kids in the five boroughs, with nearly 100 youth leagues in the city alone. An untold number of kids pick up the sport every year, a growing pool NYCFC can tap for support.
- MLS has given fans in New York an amazing opportunity to get in on the ground floor. How many Yankee fans got to experience their team’s early days first-hand? Our pro sports teams have histories stretching back decades if not a century or more. NYCFC is that rare chance not only to watch a top-level sports club begin in our city, but to help build that club’s culture from the ground up.
I closed the meeting by thanking everyone for attending, and we broke into small discussion groups. The time and place of the next meeting will be announced in the coming weeks.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Summary of Saturday's Meeting
In lieu of actual minutes, I am posting this summary of our first informal get-together.